Guest Column: Thinking of skipping jury duty? Think again

Most of us have been there. We receive the dreaded summons that it is our time for jury duty. There’s a reason it’s called a “duty.” Instead of viewing this as a chore, it should be viewed as an incredible opportunity to directly participate in one of our country’s greatest processes—ensuring our fellow citizens have fair access to justice.

In order to do this, and for our court systems to be fit for purpose, we need good jurors. Good jurors come from all backgrounds and experiences, our largest cities and smallest towns. What makes them a good juror is their ability to think critically about the case in front of them – this is both an art and a science. The ability to think critically is crucial to avoid being manipulated by slick trial lawyers and their persuasive techniques, to see through these tactics and arrive at the truth. In a state known around the country and world for its frivolous lawsuits and a “get rich quick through suing” attitude, we Californians desperately need good jurors to dispense justice and protect our legal system from abuse.

In a 2014 survey, in 14 of California’s 58 counties, over 20 percent of jurors called to serve didn’t bother showing up. For anyone who deems themselves a good judge of character, critical thinker or patriot, this is a grave disservice. Serving on a jury empowers citizens with the opportunity to protect individual rights and uphold equality in the court system. It is imperative to get good people on juror benches so we can collectively do better as Californians to decide how our state delivers justice.

Business owners, you play a crucial role in this call to action. When you support your employees attending jury duty, not only are you preserving our judicial system, but protecting your company. It is often our small businesses who are the victims of frivolous lawsuits, causing sometimes irreparable damage. See this as an opportunity to safeguard businesses like yours from abusive lawsuits.  As we see with many personal injury lawyers, the truth is frequently omitted from their salacious claims and in a world of alternative facts, we have a duty to support those who value the truth.

For employees, this is your opportunity to be an integral part of our justice system. Your voice needs to be heard to uphold the validity and fair practices of our court. It is up to you to make sure that guilty parties are held accountable while on the other hand, ensure those abusing our court systems do not get a free pass.

These reasons, are why this May, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is observing Juror Appreciation Month. We understand good jurors are critical to stopping lawsuit abuse in our state and upholding the integrity and effectiveness of our courts.

If you get called for jury service this year, I challenge you to see it, not as a chore, but as upholding an important Constitutional right.

Vincent Passanisi is a Seal Beach resident and is the owner of Marisa Foods in Long Beach and Supporter of California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.